IN his first meeting with a Chinese leader since his re-election, US President Barack Obama said Washington and its chief economic rival must work together to "establish clear rules of the road" for trade and investment.

His comments on the final leg of a three-day South-east Asian trip yesterday follow a US election campaign in which China was repeatedly accused of unfair trade practices and illustrates the work ahead in a region already simmering with tension over territorial disputes involving Beijing.

"It is very important we work to establish clear rules of the road internationally for trade and investment," Mr Obama told Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao before an East Asia summit of Asia-Pacific leaders in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.

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"I'm committed to working with China and I'm committed to working with Asia," Mr Obama said. China and the US had a "special responsi-bility" to lead the way on sustained global growth, he added before the meeting was closed to the media.

Mr Wen highlighted "the differences and disagreements between us" but said these could be resolved through trade and investment.

Mr Obama's visit to Cambodia, the first by a US president, underlines an expansion of US military and economic interests in Asia under last year's so-called "pivot" from conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan.